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SuppliedInside Tedesca Osteria

Time Out Food & Drink Awards 2022: Best Regional Restaurant

These are the nominees for Best Regional Restaurant in the Time Out Melbourne Food & Drink Awards 2022

By Time Out in partnership with Tyro

It’s a new golden age for regional restaurants. After many outward-looking years in which we’ve been in thrall to the glittering lure of planes over trains, a certain pandemic has wrested attention back to our own backyard.

It’s a bit like falling in love again. Or for those discovering regions and restaurants for the first time, a case of “Where have you been all my life?”

We’re doubly blessed in Victoria. The state’s compact size means you can start your engines after breakfast and reach any of Time Out’s best regional shortlist in time for a coffee before lunch.

Plenty of these contenders go beyond simply being great restaurants that happen to be in regional Victoria. They offer a taste of place (no, we won’t say “terroir”), a celebration of their local producers, and often a demonstration of their own paddock-to-plate efforts that see chefs turn into farmers for part of their week. It’s a micromanaging of the supply line that leaves us completely in awe.

Look no further than Tedesca, which could look like the most delightful kind of farmhouse restaurant cosplay until you learn about chef Brigitte Hafner’s own adventures in rearing sheep and raising crops for the menus. Hashtag commitment.

Or Brae, where Dan Hunter’s kitchen garden is a thing to behold, and bycatch from the ocean is turned into the luxest of eats. Proving you don’t have to be in some remote back country, Aaron Turner’s Igni brings flame-grilled locavorism to backstreet Geelong. Then there’s the likes of O.My, which straddles the city/country divide, ensuring our outmost love and respect for the suburban Packenham rail line.

Our advice? Pack your bag, head on out and make a weekend of it. You’re guaranteed good eating… hell, you might even expand your horizons.

These are the nominees for Best Innovation.
These are the nominees for Best Casual Dining Venue.
These are the nominees for Best Fine Dining Restaurant.

Want more? Click here to view all the nominees in the Time Out Food & Drink Awards 2022.

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And the nominees are...

  • Restaurants
  • Seafood
  • Sorrento
  • price 3 of 4

For those who had ever frequented the Continental Hotel's upper level back in its heyday, stepping into Audrey's will come as a pleasant shock. It would be an understatement to say the space – once affectionately known as 'the dungeon at the Conti' – was previously far less refined than its current iteration as Scott Pickett's (Smith St Bistrot, Estelle, Chancery Lane) new dazzler. Audrey’s is about as far from a dungeon as it gets, with wall-to-wall windows lining the dining room overlooking sea views of Sorrento. You arrive to plush green velvet booths, white tablecloths and a grand raw marble bar with caviar, oysters and seafood atop.

  • Restaurants
  • Birregurra
  • price 3 of 4

It takes a full day to dine at Brae. A meal at Victoria’s most highly decorated fine dining institution fits a micro holiday into the hours needed to get out to the gently sloping paddocks of Birregurra (an easy two-hour drive from Melbourne), dine in rural splendour at an appropriately relaxed pace at Dan Hunter’s famous farmhouse restaurant, and return home. You could make it a genuine mini-break should your budget stretch to the additional $635 for a night in one of the six guest suites on site (breakfast included), but it’s hard to think of a more pleasant day trip than one centred around the country’s pre-eminent dining experience.

  • Restaurants
  • French

The Victorian shiraz seat of Heathcote is a charming, under-the-radar country town laden with petite wine cellars and excellent local bakeries and pubs. Now, a laid-back French restaurant by two young hospitality upstarts is bringing a little flair to the up-and-coming wine destination – with possibly the most affordable set menu you've seen banging about in a long while. Chauncy found its home in a heritage-listed sandstone building just off the main road in Heathcote when Grossi Florentino's ex-head chef Louis Naepels and his sommelier wife Tess Murray (Florentino Upstairs, Supernormal and Cutler & Co) were looking for a new project together. The result is a quaint, but suitably chic dining room with a handful of tables looking out over their little plot of land.

  • Restaurants
  • Modern Australian
  • Geelong
  • price 3 of 4

We all felt the loss when Aaron Turner went away to Nashville after closing Loam, the restaurant that made the Bellarine sexy. We all cheered when he finally returned, rather alarmingly more beardy than before, and opened the Hot Chicken Project – particularly the good people of Geelong, upon whom he bestowed the finger-lickin’ good times. Now he’s doubled down on Victoria’s second city by opening Igni, a restaurant that lives up to his talent. People of Melbourne, start your engines.

  • Restaurants
  • Beaconsfield
  • price 3 of 4

Taking the easy road is not part of the Bertoncello family values. Blayne and Chayse, the brothers behind ambitious fine-diner O.My have overcome fire, a pandemic and a relocation in the last 12 months without skipping a beat or compromising any of their exacting standards. Farm-to-plate is an overused term but that’s the most succinct way to describe what the brothers Bertoncello are doing at their 25-seat restaurant in Beaconsfield on Melbourne’s fringe. This is the third location of O.My, after a fire in November 2020 engulfed the old Beaconsfield post office that housed the restaurant. Disaster struck just one day after the restaurant reopened following Melbourne’s long second lockdown. 

  • Restaurants
  • Vegetarian
  • Merricks North

Entering a long driveway through two imposing pyramid-shaped metal structures on an otherwise ordinary country road is as close to falling down the rabbit hole as one can get on the Mornington Peninsula. Well, more of a jackalope hole than a rabbit one to be exact. The jackalope, a mythical hybrid creature crossed between a jackrabbit and an antelope, is the metaphorical and literal centrepiece of the surreal wonderland that exists in the middle of Merricks at Jackalope Hotel (Emily Floyd’s seven-metre Jackalope sculpture stands tall in the middle of the car park). Rare Hare, the less formal of two restaurants on site, is one of the main characters and shining stars of Jackalope’s fanciful micro-universe. 

  • Restaurants
  • Italian
  • Red Hill

Stepping onto Tedesca’s gravel path is like entering a farm – the expensive yet humble-looking kind that welcomes you in with a white Hamptons-style pergola enlaced with grape vines and perfectly undone stacked rows of firewood. There’s a farmer, fields of homegrown produce and a cottage for those lucky enough to snap up a coveted booking. And on this farm, all roads lead to the osteria. If Tedesca were an osteria by Italian definition – a casual, unpretentious place serving wine and simple food – the interior fits the bill. The gobsmackingly large wooden door; the fire on and crackling; the tables set with rustic off-white and red-striped tablecloths.

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